The coaches of two of Europe's heavyweights face some tough decisions ahead of today's Fifa deadline for naming their provisional World Cup squads.
Capello and Domenech have worries
The coaches of two of Europe's heavyweights face some tough decisions ahead of today's Fifa deadline for naming their provisional World Cup squads. Fabio Capello, the England coach, is sweating on the fitness of Wayne Rooney, while Raymond Domenech, the France manager, has a plethora of selection issues. Rooney limped off the field toward the end of Manchester United's final Premier League game of the season against Stoke on Sunday with a recurrence of a recent groin injury.
The problem for Capello, however, is that he has several more players either injured, in danger of breaking down at any time, or only recently back from long-term problems. Rio Ferdinand, England's captain, has a problem with his lower back which flares up repeatedly while Gareth Barry, a regular under Capello, has been ruled out for three weeks with ankle trouble. The Italian has placed great importance on the team winning their opening game against the USA and that is why all these injury woes could upset his preparations.
"To get a result in the first game is so important," he said. "If you win the first game and get the three points it is really good for the team psychologically and also for the group table." Domenech, meanwhile, faces another test to his shattered popularity. The uncompromising coach, who is booed by the France fans at every game, knows that many of his stalwarts have not had the ideal preparation.
Arsenal's William Gallas has a calf problem, Thierry Henry and Karim Benzema have often been left on the bench at Barcelona and Real Madrid respectively and Patrick Vieira, at Manchester City, has been looking his 33 years of age. Gallas, however, remains France's most reliable central defender, Henry is the captain and Vieira is their most experienced midfielder. That means those three should win tickets to South Africa, but Benzema's spot is under threat with Djibril Cisse, of Panathinaikos, on Domenech's radar. Vicente del Bosque, the Spain coach, last night picked injured stars Andres Iniesta of Barcelona, Fernando Torres of Liverpool and Cesc Fabregas of Arsenal in his provisional 30-man squad for South Africa.
* Compiled by Thomas Woods, with agencies